I love who you are

Last night as I was closing my 3 year old’s bedroom door, he caught me with his words from his bed. “Hey, Mommy. I love who you are” he said in his sweet little voice. I opened the door again and said, “I love who you are, too.” Then I closed his door and walked down the hallway. I started washing dishes, relaxing into the rarely quiet space. The final words of the day replaying in my mind, as I savored the sweetness of my son and his kindness toward me. My thoughts strung on as I held his words as truth, and I started to wonder… do I love myself the way he loves me? Do I love who I am? Not the person I’m presenting to the world. Not the person with actions to show.. Not the person with titles.. But the person inside of my ribcage.

That person. That person with real flaws and real vulnerabilities that I often try to hide if I think they’re “ugly” or “unacceptable” or “naive” or “too much”. THAT PERSON.

My string continued on as I washed warm soapy water over the dishes of the day. And I wondered… when was the last time I was that kind to myself? And I’m not talking about self care.. I’m talking about that inner voice that follows me around every day. When was the last time I allowed my inner voice (my ego) to be that kind? Have I ever? I wondered. Had I ever been as kind to myself as my 3 year old just was to me? Have I ever let myself be accepted BY MYSELF, for who I just am? And if not, then, have I ever truly loved who I am?

Fellow Humans

This might be my most vulnerable writing ever. While I consider myself a brave person when it comes to matters of the heart, this one feels really difficult to share. I wasn’t wanting to ever share this with anyone, and I know I don't have to, but something inside of me is pushing and that’s usually my indication that God is at work. So, as I share this, I just ask that you be tender with me - that you remember throughout this that I am human, and doing the best I can, just like you.

I am white. I am a white, educated woman. I am a white, educated, female social worker and mother. I attended an all-women, liberal arts college. I am bipartisan. I vote. I have privilege in every way possible outside of being a woman. I cried tears of joy when gay marriage was legalized in Minnesota. I cried (and still cry) tears of sadness when I think about children being separated from their families. I usually keep it to myself, or to my small circle that I know feels similarly. However, I often feel that I don’t know everything and don’t have a place to say much. But, I do have something to say now. Because the words, “Go back to where you came from” rip open a wound so deep within me, it’s gaping now.

In college, I worked as a server at restaurant. I worked alongside people who were in very similar situations as me, and also those who were not. We were all working to do what was best for ourselves and/or our families. We worked hard. Really hard. And we all got along, most of the time. However, one evening, we were slammed. Stress and chaos seemed to be the name of the game that night - mistakes were being made by servers and cooks - tables were left unattended for too long, there wasn’t enough communication between staff about who had what section, and who was taking what tables. In the middle of it all, a pattern began to arise with one of the servers, Manuel. He started taking tables that weren’t in his section. And almost as quickly as I noticed the pattern, I got really angry. I kept going about my shift, busting my butt with everyone else, when I saw it happen again - this time in my section. I decided to confront him. In a chaotic passing, I quite rudely said, “Stop taking the tables that aren’t yours, Manuel!” He said, “They need water, I’m helping”. But I didn’t listen - certain I knew what was going on, I said, “Oh yeah, you’re helping by taking other people’s tables and tips?” He got angry and our encounter escalated quickly. I can’t remember what exactly his next comment was, but it felt personal and insulting (ironically). Thats when my anger hit maximum rage and like vomit, the words, “Oh, Manuel, just go back to where you came from” spewed onto him. We were both frozen there, wide eyed. Him stunned in a pain I will never understand. Me, in complete shock that I had those thoughts inside of me. He walked away. We went about our shift. We never spoke of it again. We mostly avoided each other and only talked when necessary during a shift for 2 more years. I vowed to myself that night of the incident, that I would find that buried hatred and challenge it. That I would choose discomfort and the unknown over myself, every time I could. But, I’ve never spoken about this to anyone.

I think it’s time I finally face my privilege more directly. More honestly, beyond my own little circle. It’s time I own that I have been a part of spreading hatred in this world. I knew it the second the words left my lips, and I know it just as clearly now. We all experience hatred. We all experience conditioning. We all experience biases. But, I think that for those of us who experience privilege, the experience is the same. We don’t have to see it and we don’t have to own it because THAT’S WHAT PRIVILEGE IS. But, what we do with our privilege is what can be different. So, this is me, being human. Being a human woman. A human woman of privilege. An educated, human woman of privilege. That will vote. That will use my impact, however small or large it may be, for good. For love. For beauty and kindness. And for equality with my sisters, brothers, neighbors, friends, coworkers, and fellow humans. And, hoping that you will join me by doing the same.

Earth Mother

Lately I’ve been lost in a conversation of very palatable fear about our environment. I’m not an activist by title, and I’m not a huge subscriber to environmental groups. But, I am a mother, who will do anything to ensure the best life for her children. When I allow myself to really think about the state of nature, and the health of our globe, fear is almost consuming. It’s so easy for us to ignore the reality day to day, but it is a reality our children will not have the luxury of avoiding. So, what should we do? 

I see myself often as a tender. A tender of humans, a tender of space. But, I’m extending myself now to be a tender of the planet. And I encourage..I urge..other mothers to do the same. Parents are catalysts - I’ve written this before. We are the most motivated of all to make things better. And usually the most motivated people get it done. So, let’s do it. Let’s do the best we possibly can for the health and well-being of our children. 

Recycle. Compost. Stop using plastic bags. Choose cars based on function and environment. Be mindful of the packaging in each of your grocery items. Buy secondhand clothing and toys. Take a walk in the woods. Take your kids to trails. Camp with them. Allow them to develop an appreciation for nature, so that they are also invested in its wellbeing. 

Please, from one mother to another, help me protect my children. 

Seasonal Affective

Spring has arrived in Minnesota. The ground is thawing, the snow piles are dwindling, and the birds are eating! My soon to be sister-in-law gifted me a nature journal for Christmas this year and it’s made me notice more of what’s going on in the elements and in the seasonal transitions. Through the journal experience, I’ve been often noticing the correlation between the animals in my backyard and our habits as people in the seasons. It’s helped me feel more supported in my own living too. This winter, as I felt the lull of the season drag on, I would force myself to take a self care walk in the woods, and I inevitably noticed what the animals were doing. In a season that I would normally try to climb out of my lazy, depressive, seasonal affective state, the animals were a reminder to embrace the state; To really be with it by allowing myself to be snuggly and quiet, to be shielded from the natural elements by my home, and to tend to the needs my body called for- mainly, rest. And now, with the arrival of spring, I’m feeling the energy by witnessing the busy squirrels, the emerging of turkeys in our backyard, and the returning of geese and birds from their winter retreats. Watching the squirrels scrounge for leftover acorns they buried last fall and playfully chase each other through the trees, has reminded me to stay with myself in the new season of lighthearted energy. The thing we as people tend to do with this new energy is overextend ourselves the second it arrives. The animals don’t. They prioritize work and nourishment as they grow their families, and they intertwine playful energy into that priority. Around the time the sun begins to set, the animals get quiet, returning to their nests. They rest still and harness the energy the season has brought to their being- using it wisely and intentionally. I’m working, this season, with trying to do the same. 

We are infusing our home with spring this weekend- adding little pops of color throughout, cracking a window when it feels refreshing, peeling a mandarin for that sweet, anticipatory smell, stopping to listen when the geese fly over our roof, and changing our diets to include radishes, peas, mint and dill. Spring is here friends, let’s honor it well.

The Work That Chooses Us

I’ve found, over time, that stay at home parents are some of the biggest links in their communities. They’re a vital component to creating “a village” where they live, and they get shit done because they have more time than most. Examples: Neighbor going through cancer? A stay at home parent has more time to make a meal to bring them. Neighbor out of town? A stay at home parent has the ability to check for packages each day. Neighbor kids need childcare after they get off the bus for an hour? Stay at home parent to the rescue. Something strange happening down the street in the middle of the day? Stay at home parent/neighborhood watch is on it … We inevitably become caretakers of more than our family and home. Or, at least, we are capable of doing so. I personally find tremendous joy in this, as I feel the heart of community can reside right here. I realize that being this can actually be a nightmare for some as well, and I would be lying if I said I’ve never felt it as a “burden” at times. But, the realization of this and the question of my responsibility within this opportunity, has been the bulk of my thoughts the past 6 months.

Last summer, the plot of land at the end of our street (which is owned by a developer), was clear cut. 8 acres of trees and wildlife chopped and gone in 1 morning. It was devastating to our neighborhood, and while we all knew it was owned by a developer for years, we weren’t given any warning of the events that took place. I walked my kids down that morning to see what was going on, and I admittedly, cried. This was a place I could always count on turkeys and birds to entertain my kids if I needed a break. And just like that, it was gone. The neighborhood was blindsided and the view our neighbors closest to the property had, changed from those shady woods to a busy highway and neon lights from the gas station across the property. We learned quickly afterward that the city was beginning to edit their 2040 Plan for zoning undeveloped properties in the city. The proposal coming in was to change the zoning from low density or medium density to high density, mixed use, and/or office. This was all confusing, uncertain, overwhelming, and concerning to us as a neighborhood. A few neighbors started researching (even just learning the “city language” was a task) and a couple of us organized a neighborhood meeting to discuss what was going on, and what we wanted to see happen. There was a lot to do. Organizing our ideas, our identity as a neighborhood, our wishes, and then creating a plan for how to accomplish it all was overwhelming, and yet (for me), invigorating. As the stay-at-home parent in the neighborhood, it quickly became apparent that I had more time and the ability to get information faster than most. I was by no means the most qualified to do this work, but by the pure default of time, I ended up doing it. And, I still do. In the beginning, I often questioned my place - my ability, and my responsibility to do this, but it has evolved into one of the most wonderful and unexpected facets of my life. Sometimes we don't choose the work, but the work chooses us. I was reminded of this yesterday as I watched a snippet of Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Town Hall (yes, stay at home parents stay informed on politics and the happenings of the world - actually, I think more than most because: time). Senator Klobuchar shared that when her daughter was born, she couldn’t swallow. She shared (briefly) the scary experience of a new mom being forced to leave the hospital in 24 hours (due to insurance company policy) while her daughter was still there with a complex medical issue. And then she shared what she DID about it. She got her friends together, and she went to the policy makers. Her pregnant friends outnumbered the the insurance folks, and they passed a policy to guarantee moms 48 hours in the hospital, if they wanted it. This is not an endorsement for Senator Klobuchar (although, I do like her), it’s a real life example of how parents can be the biggest agents of change in our society. Whether it’s within our home - raising humans to be good stewards of the world, or in our neighborhood- when our neighbors need kindness and help, or in our city- when our environment is changing, or, even beyond that.

I’m writing this blog through the lense of my recent experiences, and where my energy is lying these days. I’m writing it with a purpose too - to encourage hopefulness as we see change can happen - to show the value our stay-at-home parents aren’t always given, but really do have - and to maybe inspire you. Inspire you to question your ability and/or responsibility within your “stay-at-homeness” by asking you to look outside your front window and respond when you see the need arrive. Because, this is really what it’s all about - striving to live a good life in an environment we enjoy being in.

Mindful of the Mundane

Sitting in the chair, next to the nightlight, I realized my 2 year olds heart was laying against my heart. His head on my shoulder, his arms tucked in the way he sleeps. The rising and falling of his back against my hand, as his breath slowed for sleep. It was the end of another day. Another day passed, my child another day older. It was a day like any other- routines, meals, snacks, naps, play, tears, giggles, questions, teaching- a day that seemed at moments to last forever, and yet we made it to the setting sun and time propelled us into another age. A single day older. It doesn’t seem worth writing about- it was nothing monumental. And yet, it is. Being mindful of the mundane and the passing of time, however slow it might seem, is living. Knowing when something precious is happening to us, as it’s happening to us, is a value I fear we’re losing. They are moments no one else will see- and even if we write about them, they are experiences no one else will feel in the same capacity. And that is what makes it worthwhile. This is what makes living so beautiful. When we lose this feeling, that’s when we begin to lose ourselves.

The Grass is Always Greener Syndrome

Last night, while trying to have a legitimate adult conversation with my husband after the baby was asleep, I found a cheerio in my shirt. Like, between my stomach and shirt. I have no idea how long it had been there, probably all day.. I looked up at my husband and in equal parts wanted to laugh and cry. I lifted the cheerio up to him and said, "I wish I was even a little bit surprised by this." He laughed and told me it was sexy. 

That cheerio launched us into a long conversation about what our lives have become. I've been feeling really negative about everything lately. There are a million external reasons why, and all of them make sense, but the real reason is just me. In the past 4 months we sold our house in the city, moved to the suburbs, got a Costco membership (I still want to die when remembering this), got pregnant again (yay!), and now we're discussing a mini van (I want to die more..). And while admittedly, it's ridiculous, I'm actually a little depressed about it all. This is never, ever what I pictured my life would look like. Never. And I've been seriously considering going back to work lately because that IS what I envisioned for my life. After sharing this all with Alex, he replied by saying that he felt my persepctive was a little "grass is always greener" because he too has those thoughts while working. He said, "I often wonder if my life is supposed to be spent mostly in an office taking notes on everything I ever say or do, or if I should be at home with my son every day." And I realized this really is a grass is always greener feeling. 

Its really, really easy to get consumed with the negatives of staying home - bodily fluids, whining, crying, tantrums, messes, cleaning, more messes, boredom, financial stresses, loneliness, ego, questions of purpose and worth within the greater world..  I'm not going to say something cliche here - it's just not always easy to see the positives of it all. But, I am making a conscious effort here to set down negativity and see the green grass surrounding me. (Okay, that was cliche..). 

I started by adding "Stay at home mom" to my LinkedIn profile, because I'm here too. I may not be seen by many as someone who's working, but I am. And I'm a part of society too, even though I'm not physically present in the rush hours, Starbucks lines, and staff meetings. Any smart future employer will know that a parent who has stayed home knows how to work their tail off. 

It is finally well with my soul

Sweet babies, 

I'm thinking about you a lot today.  I've been thinking about you a lot lately.  When the moms at mom's morning asked if Lars was my first.  When my friend lost her sweet Jonah.  When my other friend heard her HCG levels weren't going up anymore.  When our family labels grandchildren by birth order.  I think of you. I think about you when a song comes on.  I think of you when I watch Lars playing alone in the living room.  I think of you when I see Lars's personality.  And, sometimes I just feel your presence, looking over my shoulder and I think about you all day those days.

Sometimes I cry still.  I cry because I miss you.  I cry because I long to know who you are.  I cry because the intensity of sorrow is so imprinted on my heart when it comes to you both.  I cry because I know that you're in another realm, and you're safe.  I cry because I know God called you home before you were even born.  I cry because I feel you know more than me when it comes to God's goodness and God's plan.  I cry because, as your mother, I was supposed to teach you those things, but instead God gave you eternity and uses you to teach me.  I cry because I feel humbled by your wings.  I cry because you're my gifts, even though it's not in the way I had envisioned. 

I cry because I love you.  And I cry because I wish others knew you the way that I do.  

What a lucky mama I am to have such angels influencing my days. 


Tell them about love

Each morning during Lars's diaper change, I tell him what's going on in the world.  I realize he's 7 months old, but it's a habit I want to form.  It's almost as much for me as it is for him.  Staying home can feel rather isolating at times, and it's important to me to stay informed and connected to the world.  Yesterday I just couldn't though.  I just cried when I tried to tell him what's going on.  So, instead, we finished the diaper change, walked to the living room, turned on an old hymn and held each other while swaying and watching out the window.  We swayed there, Lars's head on my shoulder and my tears dripping on his, for 3 songs (which is practically eternity for a 7 month old attention span).  

Alex and I do not affiliate with one political party.  We usually lean a little left, but we see value in some right sided issues as well.  People we love and respect sit on both sides.  We have many conversations around our table, about both perspectives in most circumstances.  We want to know what people from each side are thinking before we land on a belief.  It's something we really want to instill in our children - critical and independent thinking.  But yesterday, I just couldn't.  The most overwhelming feeling in my heart is a tremendous depth of sadness.  I hate to admit this, but the experience of a refugee family became more clear to me than it ever has before.  I started to wonder what it would be like to raise a son in a country where he might try to be recruited for terrorism, or a daughter in a country where she would be killed for having an education.  My imagination grew more vivid as I thought about living in a country where our child could be an orphan because of what Alex and I believe in.  How could we raise a child while living in constant fear?  Surely we wouldn't stay.  Surely we would do what was best for our beloved son.  We would risk our lives for his freedom.  We would leave everything if it meant there was a place where he could be safe.  What parent wouldn't do that?  

I'm devastated at the thought of that family getting to our border, only to be detained or to find a wall. This is not what we believe in our home.  This couldn't be any further away from what we believe.

Our doors are open here.  Our table always has space, and we refuse to live our lives out of fear.  Because, the moment we allow our fear to override our humanness, we stop living.  And when we stop living, we deprive ourselves from feeling everything, including joy and love: the only thing we could ever want for our children…. joy and love.

So, this week, I will tell Lars about love.  I will tell him about the love God has for him, and how it's the same love God has for every person in the world.  I will tell him that when he feels this love, it's a teaching.  It's a guide for how to treat others and a guide for his actions in our world.  



Dear Neighbor

Dear Neighbor,

I see you.  

I see you corralling your daughters and carrying your baby to the car for a 5 minute drive to the bus stop for head start.  I see the pride your daughter carries her backpack with. I hear her when she tells me she's going to be a doctor someday. I see that education is important to you.

I see you coming home in the morning from your night shift at the hospital, only to be sitting on the deck nursing your infant and supervising your daughters playing in your yard hours later.  I see how hard you work for your home and family.

I see you leave for work on Saturday morning, only to return home that evening and help your oldest daughter learn to ride her bike while walking to the park down the street.  I see how much family means to you.

I hear your invitations to come over anytime, or let you know if I need help with our new baby.  I see your genuine care for your neighbors and community.

I see you host your visiting family for months at a time, while they make the visit to the United States.  I see how much your children love their grandparents and great-grandparents when they visit, and I see your tears when they get in the car with their luggage.

I see you family gather when the Shaman comes to visit.  I see the effort you make to host them, in your beautiful clothing and delicious smelling feasts.  I see the sacredness in those gatherings, and I see that spirituality and religion are important to you.

I see how you live day to day, and it makes me think about my family a few generations ago, who also came to this country because they loved their family and valued the same things you do.  I see that we are both immigrants, just at different times.

I see you.   Because you are my community. 

And we both belong here.

First Blog

I had my first blog ideas scribbled out on post-its for days. I had a draft that I had worked on for hours. I had these great topics planned that I thought would start this blog off with intelligent discussion and a pretty face about being justice focused and put together in a world of uncertainty right now.

And then, I was tired.  So tired.  And in my pajamas and yesterday's ponytail.  I sat down with coffee during Lars's nap, and the sun was exploding through my living room; It was the perfect space to write in.  And then my computer Would. Not. Work. It was taking forever and I couldn't write a thing.  So, I did what any mature, 28 year old, mother would do.
I texted my husband 6 texts in a row to make sure he knew how angry and annoyed I was.  I slammed the laptop shut so the laptop would know how mad I was.  And then I threw a burp rag across the sun bursting room, so that the entire living room would know how mad I was. I thought about throwing my coffee mug (yes, I seriously considered it).  Like a 3 year old, I threw a tantrum on a Friday morning while my 7 month old took the most glorious of naps and the house was clean and my coffee was hot and everything was pretty and perfectly set up to be ideal.

And then, the computer.

Not knowing what to do, I sat down, face to the sun out the window, and breathed and felt all of the anger go through it's layers.  And, holy shit, it just kept coming! I had no idea I was so mad about so much.  I was going through layer after layer and realizing that I've gotten pretty good at pretending I'm not annoyed or angry day to day and then pushing it down. But today, I was just angry and there was nowhere else to push it.

The rage passed and tears were all that remained.  Tears of fear for everything I've read on NPR this week about our president and our country. I mean, every single topic reeled through my mind and tears upon tears upon tears came.  Tears for potential change as we discuss a new house.  Tears for my friend who lost her baby this week.  Tears for my dog, who I adore but wanted to sell approximately 7 times this week (that's once every day..), tears for the ear infection my baby has (again) this week, tears for the ways I'm trying to present myself so that others will only judge me as good and put together....tears for everything.  So many freaking tears.

And then I sipped my (no longer hot) coffee out of the mug, hoping I wouldn't throw it against the wall in the process.

And I'm writing this blog in an email to myself, from my iPhone because: that damn computer….

And I'm here.  This is me today.
I'm angry, heartbroken, and anxious. 
And, a total mess.

Welcome to my blog.  It's going to be real.